By Nick Shook | NFL.com
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Friday was the first day of workouts for offensive linemen, tight ends and special teamers, but as is often in the NFL, quarterback talk ruled the day.
St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher pushed his big pile of confidence chips into the center of the table, telling reporters that his team is “betting on” Sam Bradford. Quarterback guru George Whitfield told reporters the possibility of Marcus Mariota landing on the same roster as 2014 first-round selection Johnny Manziel in Cleveland was a “very real situation.”
And then there was Jameis Winston taking the podium and telling reporters he’s planning on winning the Super Bowl next season. As if the football world hadn’t already adjusted to Winston’s tendency to provide surprising sound bytes, this one ranks among the most eye-opening.
As the quarterback goes, so goes the team in the NFL — and apparently so goes the media portion of the combine. Here are our takeaways from Friday at the combine:
1. On that Fisher vote of confidence for Bradford: It wasn’t all too surprising of a declaration on the part of the coach, seeing as his backup options are veteran Shaun Hill — due to be a free agent in March — and the fresh-faced Austin Davis, who faces restricted free agency next month. But with Bradford coming off multiple ACL injuries in the last two seasons, he isn’t a rock-solid option under center. Combine that with a report that Bradford had been given permission by the Rams to seek a trade, and it’s understandable why the coach might feel the need to set the record straight.
2. Fisher also is an important member of the NFL’s Competition Committee, and boy, do we have quite the offseason for that bunch. The coach covered game ball preparation protocol and the expansion of replay, which he said has received a great number of proposals, the largest he can remember. Get the coffee and donuts ready, because that group has many corporate office table discussions ahead of it.
3. Manziel and Mariota in the same quarterbacks room is intriguing to those who enjoy controversy, and should be both exciting and alarming to Browns fans who have witnessed dreadful play behind center since the mid-1990s. The interesting point here is that Whitfield, a coach who has history working with Manziel, isn’t afraid to admit that Manziel isn’t in favor in Cleveland’s front office, so much that they’d turn to another one of his pupils to address the situation. The packaging of two first-rounders would be a lot to ask for the Browns to risk on another signal-caller who isn’t considered entirely “NFL-ready,” but then again, with the Browns, we’re rarely ever surprised.
4. Marshawn Lynch doesn’t like to speak publicly, so it’s no shock that we haven’t heard much from his end on his plans for the future. We have heard from Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, who said the team has “had big offers out there” in the effort of re-signing Lynch and added that Seattle “would really like to move with that quickly.” We’ll see if the final dollar amount is enough to convince Lynch to suit up for 2015 and beyond.
5. Jacksonville has occupied the undesirable cellar of the league in recent years, meaning they were always selecting near the top of the draft. After a couple springs of roster adjustments, Jaguars general manager David Caldwell is a bit more relaxed with this offseason’s draft selection, saying “I think this year we could be more open” with the No. 3 pick. Jacksonville nabbed its quarterback of the future with 2014’s No. 3 pick Blake Bortles, so it leaves them in a position of power to deal with a QB-needy team in a top-heavy QB class. For the first time in a long time, Jacksonville is comfortable enough to make a move.
6. Mike McCarthy sounded like he was having one of those “the one that got away” flashbacks on Friday. The Packers coach took the podium and showered his team with praise, saying he thought the Packers “were the best team in football when our season ended.” The only issue was, well, Green Bay fell short of the Super Bowl. McCarthy left a teaser though, claiming that if his squad keeps it up, “it will be the best offense pro football has seen.”
We shall see indeed.